Morning everyone, and welcome to another week on the blog! I was thinking about what I wanted to know when I first started out as a self-taught illustrator/artist the other day, and I think this is something I would have wanted to know: how to get the job. Except, this isn't really going to be a 'how to', more of a story that I hope might be useful to somebody somewhere. I'm going to chat about how I got the job working on The Bird Book.

The story starts out with a bit of a cheat, I suppose, but there are lessons to be learned from this regardless, so hear me out. In around October last year I was approached by Sophie Blackman, the senior editor at Studio Press (who we heard from last week), who wanted to know if I would illustrate The Bird Book. Now, here comes the cheat part, I met Sophie when I worked as an editor at the publisher Quercus, several years ago and she has remained a friend ever since. You might think that's a total cop out, and you might think 'oh, she knew someone, but how do I get the job?', but to that I say: listen in.

Lauren, me and Sophie on a trip to Slovakia

For a start, it's a good lesson: get out there, make contacts, make yourself known. If you don't know how, take a course. If you don't have the money to take a course, save up. If you don't have the time to take a course, then with all respect, I suggest you make some. These are all things that I have done and continue to do to get noticed. I go to craft fairs, sell my work online, have a good, clean website, Pinterest, Instagram, take courses primarily with Make Art That Sells, and most importantly, make art! It's also important to note that this has taken me quite a few years to build up, so if you're starting right at the beginning and you're feeling overwhelmed, just take one small step (register a domain name, make a logo, set up an Etsy shop), and it'll lead to the place you want to be. I also had no money to start with, and I worked on Howell Illustration around a full time job, so I promise you, it's possible.

Blobby Colour Worksheet by Howell Illustration from the Make Art That Sells courses
One of my worksheets from the Make Art That Sells course Assignment Bootcamp

For another thing, Sophie wasn't the only one choosing, she was just aware of my work (get your work out there to make sure people are aware of yours!). Because she was aware of my work, and knew that I was primarily a nature illustrator, she put my work in front of a panel of people when it came time to choose the illustrator. It just so happened that those people were looking for the exact mix of contemporary and vintage elements that I like to put in my work - and, importantly, they could see I was right for the job because of the body of work I'd already created (put your best work forward on a clean, easily navigable website, and don't be afraid to change it up all the time, just try to keep a cohesive look).

Happily, that panel of people then decided they wanted to ask me to do the job and voila, the offer arrived in my inbox.

A line of illustrated birds from Britain including a nuthatch, greenfinch, wren, robin, kingfisher, magpie, stonechat, blue tit and skylark
Some of my rough work that Sophie had seen before putting me forward

I was so excited. I've spoken last week about making the decision to accept jobs, and how I do that to keep my sanity, but when The Bird Book arrived, every single gram of me knew that I wanted to work on it - it was so far up my street I replied pretty much straight away saying something along the lines of YES YES YES YES YES YES ABSOLUTELY YES, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. Dignity be damned.

So, I hope that you are getting as excited as I am about The Bird Book, I've certainly been going on about it enough! And I hope that this was helpful for you, if you're thinking of starting out in illustration or art.

Check back Thursday for an interview with the designer of The Bird Book, Rob Ward.

As always, thanks for reading!


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